Spellwars Screenshots, June 10

June 11, 2009 at 11:09 am (iPhone development, spellwars, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Spellwars development has been banging along, but none so much as the visual development. My designers and artists are just fantastic, though I am always looking for more Spell Artists. If you think you might be interested, please don’t hesitate to contact me (click the contact tab in the top right of the page for direct contact info).

I thought I’d give an update and include some screenshots, showing off some of the more recent work.

I hope you like what you see. There is so much more to come, I can’t wait to get this out to everyone who is waiting and wanting to play.


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Spellwars update: and new Screenshots!

April 29, 2009 at 9:31 am (iPhone development, spellwars) (, , , , , , )

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, I’ve been quite busy. But with a lull today, I thought I’d give an update on spellwars, since the forums are still private…and if you are following the game from the outside, you might be wondering what’s going on.

I’ll tell you what’s going on: a hell of a lot! The most obvious changes are visual, the UI has had a complete overhaul, which is probably 30-40% finished, by my lead UI designer Ryan Sumo. He’s been working hard and producing very high quality work, I can’t say enough about how great he is to work with, and how much I love what he produces. There are still some very obvious things not done yet, but they are on “the list.”

Jeffrey Lai has produced some absolutely incredible Spell artwork for Spellwars, I am so proud to have him as our marquee artist. I am still looking for more artists to draw spell art, so if you are interested, please contact me.

Arron Hirst over at RzFLY is working away on a new app icon, and a set of tab icons.

Rudi Cilibrasi has implemented a server, so our multi-player version has officially gotten off the ground (though we still plan to ship a single-player version first). He has also just jumped ship from the windoz desktop experience and ordered a macbook + iPhone, so it looks like I will finally have a partner to pitch in a little bit with some of the iPhone code. Rudi’s programming abilities surpass those of just about everyone I’ve ever known, perhaps mine, so having his support and involvement means a lot.

In terms of gameplay, things are gelling quite nicely. The basic concept hasn’t changed, spells are played out on a 280×280 gameboard, they have attack and defense, and special abilities that are all resolved in a priority stack, so spells with a higher speed resolve first, moving down the list to the slowest spells. Every feature I’ve added that affects combat has been meant to add to the strategic element, while keeping the game still simple and quick. Everything is very visual, so while there is a slight bit of a learning curve, it’s not more than a few minutes before you can learn everything there is to know.

And now, what I know you all want…screenshots!

All things considered, I couldn’t be happier with how Spellwars is coming along. I wish I could move it faster…but I wish for a lot of things, and Spellwars will be ready when it is ready. Hopefully, soon.

If you are interested in getting involved, contact me, there is room for people to contribute at almost all levels. From art, game concepts, playtesting, coding, feedback, and everything in between, if you have the interest, I’ve got room for you. The Spellwars ning group is by invite only, but I am happy to invite anyone who is interested in contributing.


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Enjoyable vs Competitive Gaming

March 6, 2009 at 7:17 pm (iPhone development) (, , , , , , )

After having just spent a couple hours reads through various game theory web sites and blogs, and almost all of sirlin.net, I’m feeling inspired to write about my approach to developing Spellwars. I want to communicate what kind of gaming experience I am aiming to create, and I’ll start by discussing what the possibilities are.

Types of Gaming

From a certain point of view, one that I happen to share, all gaming (and in particular, all multi-player gaming) can be divided into two categories: enjoyable gaming, and competitive gaming.

Let me clarify a couple things about this statement right off that bat. First, the statement describes the act of playing a game, not the game itself. Certain games naturally lend themselves well to one category or the other, some games easily cover both…and of course quite a lot of games are neither. A few examples of games that are typically played for enjoyment might be World of Warcraft, Diablo II, and any of the myriad of the iPhone mafia games. Yes, there is a degree of PvP competition in all these games, but the driving force of the player engagement and experience is not primarily one of strategic competitiveness.

Second, I am not stating that the two are mutually exclusive. The same game might be played both competitively and for enjoyment, even by the same person at the exact same time, but typically a game is played much differently when it is played competitively than when played primarily for fun.

Types of Games

To explain, lets flip the lens, and look at the games, not the playing.

Consider, for example, Magic:The Gathering…which has an extremely strong following of both casual players, and competitive players. A competitive match is so fundamentally different than a casual, fun game of Magic that the two experiences barely resemble each other. But, it is important that the game supports both types of playing, and does so very well. A competitive game is not necessarily any better or worse than a casual game. The game of Magic can be enjoyed in both capacities, they are just different types of experiences.

On the other hand, there are a certain group of games are pretty much meaningless if not played competitively. Consider for example, Texas Hold’em poker. If you aren’t playing for money, even if it’s fake, there is really nothing interesting at all about playing. The entire draw of the game is all in the competition, the reading other players, calculating the relative values of cards, and the probabilities of outcomes. Chess and Go are two other games, that while they can be played “for fun,” they loose their essential quality and meaning when done so. For the sake of easy reference, I will call this type of game a “pure competitive game.”

The last group, included just for the sake of completeness, are those games that really don’t lend themselves well to any sort of meaningful competitive playing. Some games are just not designed to be played competitively (consider the bulk of World of Warcraft outside of the minimal PvP aspect), but the fact is that most multi-player games do aspire to competitive play. That’s usually the point of making the game multi-player.

Typically, the single major feature that any game in this category lacks is balance. A balanced game is what allows for two players to engage in a competitive battle that is fun and interesting for both sides. When one side is too powerful, there is no competition, there is just domination. It turns out, for those of you not actively engaged in game theory or game design, that creating a well balanced game is incredibly difficult. Add the other real world game requirements, that a game also be fun and engaging, and it’s not too hard to see why most games fall short.

Now, I am no game theory purist. I am interested in creating a game that is, at it’s core, an enjoyable experience. I do happen to believe however, that a well balanced game that can be played competitively adds an element of depth that provides a level of fun and enjoyment that can not be attained by games which ignore the element of balance. I believe that games which support both a casual, fun experience, as well as a deep, balanced, competitive experience offer the best of both worlds, and are the very best type of game.

And that is exactly what I am gunning for with Spellwars.

I do not want to create a pure competitive game, of the type where the game is only competitive, and not fun for the game itself. These pure competitive games tend to actually be played out as merely meta-games, without much of an interesting game left when you are done meta-gaming.

What the hell do I mean by that?

Consider what playing pure competitive games at the highest level actually consists of. I’ve done this with M:TG, and I’ve spent enough time researching game theory and AI that I know the same applies to Go, Chess, and yes even competitive RoShamBo. Basically, the actual mechanics of playing the game become secondary to analyzing the meta-game, that is studying the competitive strategies that other players might possibly use, and then constructing your strategy, be it your deck, your chess opening, or your programmed AI, based on your analysis of the competitive landscape. The actual playing out of the game, once it comes time to play a match, becomes a distant second to the work put in at the meta-gaming level.

For the RoShamBo example, the game itself is so trivial and boring that no one actually plays it. But is it a game that is played competitively? Apparently so. And can you actually apply strategy to it? Yep, you can. Check out this program, Iocaine Powder, which slaughtered the competition in that initial RoShamBo competition. Coming across this really drove home two main points to me:

1. Competitive gaming has nothing to do with gaming, it is all about meta-gaming
2. I want Spellwars to be a fun game, as well as a fun competitive game (i.e. meta-game). But primarily, I want it to be fun to play.

I’m here to create a game, and if it results in an interesting meta-game, hot damn. I am paying very specific attention to the game design to make sure it is balanced and has the ability to support competitive play. I want to encourage people to collect spells and construct spellbooks that can win them a tournament (yes I plan to run tournaments). But I think it’s more important, first and foremost, that the game be engaging and fun on its own.

To me, this means that I will put effort and resources into developing the parts of the game that have nothing to do with the competitive part of the game. These are areas like creating beautiful art, developing storylines and characters, creating rare and limited editions of spells, making strong and powerful items and spells that are fun to find and use. (I personally feel that enabling personal expression through the game is the most important feature for Spellwars, but more on that in a future post.)

So in summary, today I learned that I want to create a game that allows for competitive play, but not at the cost of enjoyable play.

I’d love to hear what you think, these are the types of topics that can drive game designers crazy. For me, it’s what inspires me to keep going…to make that game, the one that does it all better than any other game has done it before. And for the iPhone, right now there’s no competition to speak of. I want to set the standard.


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My life as an independent developer

March 2, 2009 at 10:35 pm (iPhone development) (, , , , )

For today’s blog post, I am going to point to a post I wrote earlier today for another blog titled My indie life: R.Cloud Software. In it, I describe what it’s like to be an independent developer, and I include pictures of me and where I work. It also has some nice discussions of Spellwars that I haven’t really posted anywhere else as of yet, so if you are following the progress of my game, I encourage you to give it a read.

I wrote the article for a brand new site called tenfingersclub. They are building a community where indie game developers can connect with gamers who appreciate and support indie games. As an independent game developer myself, I can appreciate the goal of the site…I think it’s a great concept, and I hope it does well. Indie developers of any type are at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to gaining exposure, so any extra chance, any tools or communities that help give indie developers exposure is a worthy effort in my book.


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